Breaking Persecution News
Taliban to try aid workers
By CNN staff and wires
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Eight international aid workers are to be put on trial over accusations that they preached Christianity, the ruling Taliban militia has announced.
"After the investigation is completed, the case will go to court and the court will decide according to Shariat (Islamic law)," Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil told the Taliban's official Bakhtar News Agency.
The eight foreign aid workers -- two Americans, four Germans and two Australians -- have been held for more than three weeks on charges of propagating Christianity in this deeply Muslim nation.
The members of the German-based Christian organization, Shelter Now International, were arrested along with 16 Afghan staff members. No date has been set for the trial, The Associated Press reported.
According to Taliban law, the penalty for foreigners caught preaching Christianity is three to 10 days in jail and expulsion. The penalty for an Afghan who converts to Christianity is death.
The official news agency quoted Muttawakil as saying the court ruling will be sent to the Taliban's reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, who has final say in all matters in Afghanistan.
The aid organization is described as a German-based Christian group that has been operating in Afghanistan since 1993, before the Taliban's takeover of Kabul in 1996.
It operates in several provinces, but the Taliban have shut down all its projects since the arrests in Kabul.
Diplomats from the United States, Germany and Australia, have been meeting Taliban foreign ministry officials to try to find out when an investigation will be completed into the charges that the aid workers were seeking converts.
The Taliban has told western diplomats in Kabul that "crippling" U.N. sanctions are to blame for the thousands of Afghans leaving the country.
Abdul Rehman Hotak, head of the consular department at the Taliban foreign ministry, said on Wednesday the diplomats, including American David Donahue, were briefed on the sanctions and their effect.
Hundreds of mainly Afghan asylum seekers are at the centre of an international row with three countries bickering over who is responsible for giving them a home.
A second group of mainly Afghan asylum seekers is now stranded in Indonesia.
"It is the result of the U.N. sanctions that the Afghans leave Afghanistanto have a good life abroad," Hotak told Reuters in an interview.
The U.N Security Council in November 1999 froze Taliban assets abroad and banned international flights by Afghanistan's Ariana state airlines to force the Taliban to surrender Saudi militant Osama bin Laden to face U.S. charges of masterminding the bombing of two U.S. embassies in 1998.